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Zain
Lex Rex

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Early Church

Happy "Western" Easter:

May our Lord bless and keep you on this high blessed day!

I have been enjoying a read of Ireneaus Bishop of Lyons recently (Specifically his refutation against the Gnostic Heretics of his day, Books 1-5, special emphasis on 3-5, about 180 AD). Note, I do define this author as being part of the 'Early Church' -- Ante-Nicene Fathers. I did find many things of interest to me personally, but just wanted to get input on one specific line of thought for starters.

Obviously BGM will be looking to Ireneaus' strong language regarding Apostolic Succession as the basis for true doctrine and authority within the Church, which I cannot deny is clearly present in his writing. However, I was interested in the fact that this line of reasoning included one very important addition.

Ireneaus made special mention of the fact that all of the Churches were to look to the Bishop of Rome with a level of submission and honor above all others. Hence, the question presents itself, why did you, BGM, become a member of the Orthodox Church instead of the Catholic Church.

Based solely upon the Apostolic Succession justification, which is at least one of the chief arguments for the Orthodox Church, it would seem that the Catholics have at a minimum an equal claim, and based upon the level of honor it held, perhaps a greater claim to true Apostolic Succession. Who is really the Scizmatic Church?

If the choice boiled down to better theology, this argument would seem to deny the very essence of what I will call Strict Historical Apostolic Succession, as relied upon. This is primarily due to the fact that the theology is argued to take its authority from the fact that it relates back to the Apostolic authority which passed it down. Therefore, the Church at Rome having the highest authority and honor should have the most input on correct theology -- based on this line of reasoning anyway.

Also, my research seems to reveal that the Traditional 'Catholic' Anglican Church also has a pure line of Apostolic Succession. Why did you, BGM, not join that Church? It is, afterall, a 'western' line of the true apostolic succession.

Hence, it appears to me that you have at least 3 separate historical and apostolically pure Branches of Christianity who all claim, at some level anyway, to be the true and exclusive expression of the visible Church. Or is it that Tradition is on a higher plain than that of true Apostolic Authority? Thus, if one of these 3 has a tradition that seems somewhat closer to that of the first and second century Church it must be the correct one regardless of the Apostolic Succession issue. But again, Tradition takes its authority from the Apostolic Succession doesn't it? So it would seem that there are 3 different traditions and theologies which all claim to have their mandate and exclusive authority from the fact that each of them is a direct line in Apostolic Succession. Each of them have their own form of councils, liturgies, etc.

As you can tell, I do not see the logic of it all. But let me say this: If I were living in Ireneaus' day when there was such a very clear assurance of a true and direct time connection between the bishops and the actual original Apostles who trained them, I would most probably have agreed whole heartedly with Ireneaus on many points (as applied then) and would have had no trouble submitting to his authority.

But this state of affairs (what I call true and reliable Apostolic Succession) is simply not what we see in any of the Church today! And I am wondering what Ireneaus would have done and said in today's state of affairs. Would he have been Catholic, Traditional Anglican or left the 'West' where he was a Bishop among the Keltae to join the Eastern Orthodox? More than likely everybody would be on the block, including the East. What I am saying is this: We may be able to determine what such men did in their own time when the Church was, in fact, one Orthodox and Catholic Church in the truest of senses. But if brought back today, what would they now think? I believe it is probable that they would see great deficiencies in all of Christianity and simply jump in and begin working locally for its revival and repentance.

One last comment, my search, at least thus far, tends to demonstrate that it would be nearly impossible to join not to few of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The closest one to me (1.5 hrs away), is a small Ethnically based Orthodox Church. It is my distinct impression that membership is only encouraged along ethnic lines! Although you BGM may be in a branch that is not so exclusive, this seems to be a common thread in Eastern 'Ethnic' Orthodox Churches. This result does not seem to fit any form of Christianity I have seen anywhere in the bible.

Godspeed!

Zain